When you set out to write a letter, there're so many choices. Paper and envelope size, shape and colour, letter format and ink choice are just a few considerations. Where do you begin?

First off, is your letter for business or formal purposes, or is it personal? There're several standardized templates on how to format a business letter that you can search for online.

For example, when using block form, it's common today to left-justify all elements of the letter. Left-justifying means that each line begins the same distance from the left edge of the page. The return address (the mailing address of the sender) is first, followed by the date, inside address (the mailing address of the person to whom you're writing), salutation (e.g. Dear Ms. Smith) and body of the letter. Afterward is the closing (e.g. Sincerely,) followed by your signature, with your name printed out underneath it. If any enclosures are included, they are noted at the bottom, after the sender's name.

Any business or formal letter writing is typically fact-based and therefore direct and polite. The reason for your letter should be clear and supported by any relevant information.

Business letters are typically composed on standard A4 size paper and use a No.10 or DL size envelope. Colours tend to be neutral or classic (e.g. white, cream or pale blue). If handwritten, ink choice is usually royal blue, navy or black.

Paper size for personal letters is often smaller than that used for business purposes. Writing sets often include A5 size paper with C6 size envelopes. However, today many sizes are available. Also, colour and printed paper and lined envelopes give you an opportunity to express your personality and taste.

Ink choice is another way to be creative with personal letter writing. J. Herbin even makes scented inks for that extra special element!

In addition to size and colour options, letter writing paper has a variety of textures. There're handmade papers, such as Amalfi by Cavallini & Co. with deckled edges. There are papers with bespoke texture and watermarks (e.g. G. Lalo). There're also very smooth papers in a variety of colours and with an assortment of printed motifs and borders.

When hand writing a personal letter, there's an opportunity to play with colour and style in your writing. Although most people use cursive, if you know calligraphy, this can be a chance to use it. Also, you can print out your words and use creative lettering techniques. For added whimsy, there're marker pens in different colours that are made for this (e.g. Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pens). Use whatever sparks joy for you!


In the last issue of our series on letter-writing next week, we'll discuss embellishments and enclosures. Until then, happy writing!

March 29, 2022 — Antoinette D'Angelo

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